A Cook County sheriff’s deputy who is also a nephew of Sheriff Tom Dart’s political mentor is suing the sheriff’s department, alleging he was punished for complaining about work conditions and requesting light duty after two on-the-job scuffles with inmates.
Patrick Sheahan — nephew to former Sheriff Michael Sheahan, who anointed Dart as his preferred successor in 2006 — suffered a back injury during an early morning scrap with an inmate who was high on PCP at the department’s Markham lockup in January 2013, according to the deputy and his Roselle-based attorney, Michael Smith.
Sheahan says he returned several days later only to aggravate his back injury in another struggle with another intoxicated man, according to court documents.
When he again returned to the job, the department refused to give him light-duty work, Smith said. Jail supervisors also refused to adequately staff the lockup during his graveyard shift, according federal court filings.
After an inquiry by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came up inconclusive, Sheahan filed suit in December under the American Disabilities Act, seeking an unspecified amount of compensation and attorney’s fees.
“He was subjected to threats of discharge after being injured. He wasn’t paid while he was injured. . . . He was ordered back to work against the orders of his doctor,” said Smith, the attorney. “It’s an outrage to have people who are injured . . . and all the sudden you’re no longer of use. That seems to be the position that they are taking.”
Dart spokesman Ben Breit said: “Our first priorities throughout the agency are the safety and accommodations of our employees.” He declined to comment further because the suit is pending in court.
The suit presents an odd rift between the two Southwest Side political families who have historically worked together in the 19th Ward Democratic Organization.
Patrick Sheahan declined comment for the story. But he thinks his old boss — his uncle — treated him better, according to Smith.
“I can tell you, in discussions between him and his uncle, [Patrick Sheahan’s] opinion is that he was being treated somewhat differently than [former Sheriff Sheahan] remembered in prior years, when he was in office,” Smith said.